Monday, 14 December 2015

Back from the brink of disaster

My last post ended on rather a negative note. I'd totally lost my way in trying to turn a young fig tree into bonsai after making a chop that I soon came to regret. My poor little tree ended up looking like this:
August 2010 - extreme chop

Under the circumstances I wasn't too surprised to receive a comment on Facebook saying "I would've thrown it away!"

It's not in my nature to do that though. My trees are my babies, and while there's life, there's hope.

But I really didn't know where to go from there. So I did the only thing I could do - nothing. I just left the tree to do its own thing and waited for it to present me with some new options.

If I'd been working with a different species, it may well have grown a new branch close to the cut, and in time I'd have been able to revert to the original design, but this tree has a mind of its own, so I was forced to work with the leaders it produced.

I would let it grow for a while, then pick the leader I wanted and cut back to redirect its energy in the desired direction. I don't believe that I did any wiring over the next five years.

Finally last week I decided that it was time to commit to what I had. Here is how my peculiar little tree looked in all its overgrown glory:

December 2015 - before pruning

As it was growing rather low in the pot, I took it out to get a better view of its structure.

December 2015 - before pruning

It had developed a lot over the last five years, but I didn't find that view too pleasing so I tried rotating it, and found a view that looked slightly better.

December 2015 - before pruning

Before going further I decided to take it for a critique at my bonsai club. I must confess that I was a little nervous as to how people would view this rather quirky tree that I was trying to pass off as bonsai material. After all, it breaks just about every rule I've ever been taught.

I was in for a pleasant surprise. Once people looked beyond the long sacrificial branches, they could see that what I had grown was a "fun" tree with some interesting curves.

Rather than remove a branch that was in a totally wrong place, it was suggested that I thread it through the first bend in the trunk to give me a branch on the side that was bare. In most cases that would be inappropriate, but for this tree it just felt right, so that's what I've done. Now that branch needs to thicken up until it's in proportion with the rest of the tree.

This was the suggested front:

December 2015 - after pruning

After giving it some thought, however, I wasn't sure that I like that angle. I prefer this view:

December 2015 - after pruning

I haven't totally committed to it yet, but if I do, I'll need to remove one small branch which is coming straight forward. For now, however, my final step was to defoliate the tree to help it recover from having its roots pruned.

December 2015 - after pruning and defoliation

I know this tree won't be to everyone's liking, but I'm quite pleased with how it turned out after such a disastrous beginning.

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